FORT LAUDERDALE — A Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) deputy who was featured on the FOX network’s reality show 'COPS' is under investigation for alleged witness tampering related to a case involving the Fort Lauderdale Police Street Crimes Unit known as the 'Northwest Raiders.'
Deputy Anthony Costanzo is being investigated for allegedly questioning a woman who is a key witness in the ongoing police corruption case. The alleged encounter took place while the woman was in BSO custody on an unrelated charge.
Costanzo, who is known as “Zo” on the streets, was suspended with pay on Jan. 20 immediately following the incident.
“Right now, he is suspended with pay but I really can’t comment on any of it,” BSO Media Relations Director Jim Leljedal said in a recent interview.
Officials with the Police Benevolent Association union representing Costanzo did not return calls from South Florida Times seeking comment.
However, sources say the Broward State Attorney’s Office and agents from a Federal Bureau of Investigation public corruption task force are investigating to determine whether Costanzo attempted to intimidate or otherwise unduly influence the witness about a kidnapping and corruption case.
That corruption case involves a woman and her husband, whose identities the South Florida Times is not revealing, who were allegedly kidnapped by members of the NW Raiders on Aug. 24, 2011.
The husband was taken into custody after a traffic stop and his wife was later picked up from her doctor’s office in Lauderhill. Police threatened them with arrest if they did not arrange a drug deal with Junior Jerome and Dieudson Nore who were suspected to be drug dealers, according
to sources and an arrest affidavit in the case.
After hours of intimidation, the couple eventually agreed and the deal was set up at the Red Roof Inn motel in Oakland Park, leading to the arrest of Jerome and Nore on drug delivery charges. The couple was released after the two men were taken into custody.
However, the motel’s surveillance video, which Jerome’s attorney Carter Hillstrom obtained, contradicted the accounts given in police reports . Authorities say the video footage showed the drugs may have been planted and some of the cash seized from them was never turned into evidence.
The charges against Jerome and Nore were dropped and the state attorney’s office and public corruption task force opened an investigation into the officers.
That investigation, among other things, contends that the man and his wife had been kidnapped and forced to participate in the drug operation with the NW Raiders. It also determined that some members of the NW Raiders had been robbing drug dealers of cash and drugs, and making arrests based on fabricated evidence, according to the arrest affidavits.
So far, the ongoing investigation by the task force has resulted in kidnapping, extortion, theft, making threats and false arrest charges against Fort Lauderdale detectives Brian Dodge and Billy Koepke .
They are awaiting trial.
Fort Lauderdale Sgt. Michael Florenco and Officer Matthew Moceri, who officials say were also involved in the arrests, have been suspended.
Meanwhile, on Jan. 23, the husband and wife who were kidnapped and arewitnesses in the police corruption case, were pulled over by BSO deputies in an unrelated traffic stop. Costanzo and other members of a BSO Selective Enforcement Team arrived on the scene and a search was conducted of the couple’s car.
Sources have confirmed that Costanzo also arrived on the scene at the Red Roof Inn when Dieudson and Nore were arrested but say he was not involved in that drug operation.
The husband was cited for driving with a suspended license and released at the scene. According to the probable cause affidavit, a prescription Zanax pill and powder from a Fastin diet pill were found in the wife’s purse. She was arrested on possession charges and taken to the Oakland Park district station for processing.
Even though Costanzo didn’t make the arrest, he arrived at the station where the woman was being detained in a holding cell and began questioning her about what took place at the Red Roof Inn and challenging whether she was
kidnapped at all, several sources have confirmed.
Holding cells in most BSO facilities are kept under video surveillance and Costanzo’s encounter with the woman was captured on video, according to sources. The video also reportedly shows the woman with her hands cuffed behind her back for hours.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office has not responded to a public records request from South Florida Times for a copy of the video.
“I can neither confirm nor deny Officer Costanzo's presence at the Red Roof Inn as there is a pending investigation,” said the couple's attorney William E. Peters. “It is, however, rather coincidental that Officer Costanzo recently arrested my client, given his close relationship with some of the officers involved in the Red Roof Inn incident. Such a coincidence, combined with the prolonged detention of my client, causes me grave concern.”
*Pictured above is BSO deputy Anthony Costanzo.